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DEPUTY'S OBSERVATIONS: The Code of the Pards

DEPUTY'S OBSERVATIONS: The Code of the Pards

Phil Ford would touch his fingers to his heart, where we wore our 7-pointed gold badges when in uniform, and utter the reverent words “The Code of the Pards.”

Frank Hinkle

One of the first deputies that I met when I was a young rookie deputy marshal was a gentleman named H. Philip Ford. “Phil” Ford was a senior deputy at our El Cajon Courthouse and to me he was ten feet tall and could do no wrong. He had been there and done that and some of it he had done over and over again. He was just one of many senior deputies that I looked up to and tried to emulate.

Where we were stationed was kind of “cowboy country;” Country & Western bars, cowboy mentality and work ethic, and rural beats that seemed to be decades behind the urban environment that I had grown up in.

The senior deputies that I worked with had a casual approach to things that spoke of confidence and self-reliance. We were a “one riot, one ranger” office and these men & women lived it. They called each other “pard” and they called the people that we chased “cowboy.” The word “cowboy” could be a noun, a verb, an adverb, or an adjective. It could be a one-word sentence, an exclamation, a statement of fact or a question, but rarely was it a compliment.

After a few years of uniformed field service I received a coveted transfer to our Plain Clothes warrant detail as a Fugitive Investigator. My first partner was “Big Al” Culbertson, an excellent deputy. After a few months he was promoted and transferred back to a uniformed position, and my new partner was Phil Ford, the guy that I had spent the last few years trying to be like.

Our unit had three two-deputy teams plus a sergeant, and each team had a collateral duty besides seeking fugitives. One team served as our background investigators for new applicants seeking to join our department. The other team was at our sergeant’s beck & call. Whenever he was handed a special investigation he assigned it to these two deputies and it was handled promptly. In other words, when a judge called down to The Marshal and said that somebody hadn’t made their way to court in a timely fashion that day and he wanted it rectified now, Jerry & Bill had them standing tall in his courtroom a few hours later.

That left “Me & Phil Ford” with the least popular job in the Marshal’s Department; our collateral duty was serving civil orders to mentally ill persons and when necessary taking them forcibly to the county’s mental health facility. We were the “psycho squad,” and we did “forcibly” a lot. I refer to us as “Me & Phil Ford” because that is how the vast majority of my war stories start: “This one time me and Phil Ford were chasing this nut-job down the street…” or “Me and Phil Ford knocked on this nut’s door and he opened it up and punched me in the nose…” You get the idea.

Phil Ford had been a deputy marshal for 15-years, and he wasn’t exactly a wilting wallflower deputy marshal. Like I said, he was from that “one riot, one ranger” squad. But in just a few months of chasing crazies with me he had kicked in more doors, crawled through more windows, fought more naked people… crazies like to fight naked for some reason, than he had in the rest of his career. He blamed some of it on me, but just about everybody on our squad blamed something on me, even if I wasn’t working that day.

Going back years Phil had this thing about the Code of the Pards. He’d touch his fingers to his heart, where we wore our 7-pointed gold badges when in uniform, and utter the reverent words “The Code of the Pards.” At first I had no idea what he was talking about, and when asked he could not or would not expound on what that sacred code between partners was. If you needed to ask then you didn’t get it; if you got it you didn’t need to ask. I soon figured it out but in doing so I took on the sacred duty of protecting The Code. The most that I can say is that it involves a bond between two peace officers whose very lives count on each other. They might have another name for it in L.A. or Detroit, but the cops there understand The Code.

The Code is based on the devotion that develops between two cops, to the point that if someone swung at me they would hit Phil Ford instead and vice versa. If one of us got hurt then the other wore it like widow’s weeds, so we never let our partner get hurt.

As a side note the code between partners can also be expanded to include any cover units, regardless from which agency, if they drove really fast to your assistance, and our dispatcher. It was a two-way street and it could go up & down, east or west. If she was willing to ignore or to deny knowledge of what-was-said or who-said-what on the radio, then it worked the other way around when she might have accidentally said something when the transmit button was pushed… not that that ever happened, regardless of what the Dispatch sergeant thought that he heard. When all she heard was “mumble-bang-pow COVER NOW!” her calm and measured response was “Cover now 28 Delta, 3551 Florida Street in the rear, on a crazy pick-up.” And then she would wait with baited breath until she heard “28 Delta, code 4. Thank you Marsha.”

There were also Exceptions to The Code; when the comical value so outweighs the punitive value of the incident that the witnessing deputy cannot contain himself. Part and parcel to this Embarrassment Clause is that the story teller can/should embellish as much as he or she wants to, which also served as an escape-loophole in case the lieutenant overhears of our escapades. If we got called on the carpet for some story that the L-T had heard Phil Ford was telling, Phil Ford could always say that it was all made up…nobody actually believes that Frank Hinkle is that stupid or that we would do something that outrageous.

Do not be misled and think that The Code of the Pards was self-serving, it was actually beneficial to the department. For instance, our good sergeant Bob Curry, an excellent supervisor and a credit to law enforcement, was harried and overworked. We had no desire to increase his stress level when it wasn’t absolutely necessary for us to do so. He had enough on his plate trying to satisfy the L-T, the captain, the assistant marshal and The Marshal (a fulltime job in itself) so we did not annoy him with trifling matters. He gave us warrants, we went out, people went to jail and we came back with warrants “cleared by arrest.” And if by chance I wrote a report and Sgt. Curry read something “between the lines” and got a chuckle out of it, maybe it just lived in his Inbox until the L-T went on vacation and the captain had better things to do than be bothered by how Me and Phil Ford conducted an investigation and made an arrest.

A good sergeant is also covered by The Code.

Stay safe, and stay alert.

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